Tamil Brahmin Cuisine
Tamil Speaking Brahmins settled in southern part of India mostly in Tamilnadu, Kerala, Andra and Karnataka. Broad classification of Brahmins involves Iyer and Iyengars and even their style of cooking varies slightly. Even within Iyers, depending upon their birth places, their cooking style varies. For example, Tirunelveli Brahmin cooking is slightly different from North Arcot Brahmins and even Palagat Brahmins. Though there are slight differences, the underlying concept remains same within all Brahmins.
Cooking for God
Brahmin’s are generally more orthodox and they give more importance to cleanliness before starting with cooking. Most of the Brahmin’s do lots of Pooja/vrat and hence they follow more strict rules in cooking. Brahmins always believe that the God is the first taster of the meal; hence they cook the food with great attention to cleanliness and balance the food with right mix of flavour, nutrition, texture and variety.
Choice of Vegetables
Brahmin’s give more importance in the vegetables they choose and also the spices they include in their cooking. They use spices that are really medicinal. In the last generation they grew the vegetable and greens in their back yard and used the same for the day to day cooking. Pepper, cumin, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds, asafetida are the spices they use often in their cooking. Generally, they use green vegetables like beans, broad beans, carrots which are rich in proteins and vitamins. Atleast once a week they include Spinach too. Onion and Garlic are less preferred in the Brahmin’s kitchen, mainly due to the strong smell. Between these, the Garlic is least preferred and used only for specific occasions due to its medicinal properties. But the current generation is very much using these!
Filter Coffee !
Brahmin’s are big fan of freshly brewed Filter Coffee! Last generation Brahmin’s don’t cook breakfast and they directly cook full course meal and have it around 10am. Even the children and office going elders eat rice in the morning. Filter coffees are being served at regular intervals till around 3pm when the light tiffin will be served. For dinner, again they have rice or light tiffin. Elderly women who do vrat/fasting generally have only fruits and milk for dinner. Now days the tradition has changed slightly. Most of the Brahmins have started preparing their breakfast in morning instead of having a full course meal.
Now I am going to take you all to Brahmin’s kitchen and see the dishes they cook on day to day basis.
Idly and Dosa are most popular breakfast dish in any Brahmin kitchen similar to any Tamil’s kitchen. Usually Idly/Dosa are being served with coconut chutney and the gun powder (milagai podi). Idly’s usually cooked in the Steaming Pot which would give idly very soft, instead of the pressure cooker. My mom serve the hot idly with a ½ tea spoon of gingelly oil on top of the idly, which taste heaven and doesn’t require any side dish! The current generationprefer to have Sambar as an additional side dish to Idly/Dosa. Usually the sambar that was made for breakfast is made using moong dhal instead of Thoor dhal. In addition to Idly/Dosa, the Rawa Upma and VenPongal are also equally popular in the Brahmin’s kitchen. They prefer the much plain version of Upma compared to the heavily customized version which includes onion and vegetables .
The traditional Brahmin lunch includes Payasam, Kichidi, Pachadi, Stew (koottu), Curry, Pickle, Pappad and being served in the Banana Leaf with Rice, Kuzhambu, Rasam and Curd !
Sambar, Vatha Kuzhambu and Moor Kuzhambu tops the list of most popular kuzhambu’s in the Brahmin’s kitchen. The masala for the Sambar will be grinded freshly every time as part of Sambar preparation, which is called ‘Araithu Vitta Sambar’ and prefer not to use the readymade Sambar Powder. Thoor Dhal is the main ingredient for the Sambar. Vatha Kuzhambu is the spicier version of the Kuzhambu made using Peppar. Moor Kuzhambu is yet another popular kuzhambu made using butter milk and coconut. There are hunderds of other kuzhambu’s which are being used, but these are the most popular one.
Brahmin’s kitchen always offers minimum three course meals and the Rasam meal is certainly a part of it. It’s a tangy soup with with the richness of pepper, cumin seeds, turmeric and asafoetida. Paruppu (Tomato) Rasam is a most popular Rasam followed by Milagu Jee-raga Rasam and Lemon Rasam. Milagu Jeeraga Rasam has a good medicinal properties and hence this will be offered to anyone who fall in sick in the family.
The Brahmin meal is not complete without Thayir Sadham (Curd Rice). Curd rice is often being served with pickles. Mavadu, Mango Pickle and Lemon Pickle are most popular pickles. These pickles will be prepared in home and preserved for longer period of time!
Kootu is usually a thick vegetable gravy often made using coconut, cumin seeds and sometimes with lentils. Aviyal is the most popular Stew in the Brahmin kitchen which his made using many vegetables with the coconut. Aviyal is almost mandatory for most of the festivals and grand functions in a Brahmin family. Poricha Kootu is another popular kootu made using vegetables and the moong dhal.
Poriyal / Curry
It’s a dry curry made from varieties of vegetables. Brahmin’s usually don’t prefer to fry the vegetables in the Oil, instead they steam cook the vegetables separately and add the spice and season the same. This would be much healthier diet compared to dry fry in the oil. There are no preferred vegetable for the cooking, but any vegetable available in that very season.
Most of the Brahmin’s are well versed in making Vadam. Tamil Month ‘Masi’ is considered the best month for making vadam as the summer is just started and there is enough Sun for drying the vadams.
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